Ridley-Thomas Warns of Unexpected Side Effects to Legal Pot Sales

During a recent Downtown appearance County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas discussed some potential issues related to legal marijuana sales. “That which is on the street today is not your grandmother’s Mary Jane,” he said.

DTLA - A rush is underway across the city and the state to follow up on a series of voter propositions and institute the sale of legal recreational marijuana. One leading local politician, however, is warning of potential unforeseen costs and consequences.

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County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is taking a measured approach to the law changes and the expectation that everything will proceed smoothly. The effects of legal pot sales, he believes, could be widespread, including in the homeless community. Speaking last month at a luncheon at the Downtown Palm hosted by the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, he mentioned the estimated one-third of homeless individuals who are believed to suffer from substance-abuse issues. 

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“The legalization of cannabis will impact this homeless crisis in a way that we might as well be honest with each other about,” he stated.

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Ridley-Thomas didn’t express a desire to outlaw legal pot or ensure that only medical sales be allowed. Instead, he said the county’s Office of Cannabis Management needs to take its time and study the potential risks and ramifications. 

He urged this approach despite others moving quickly in the wake of Proposition 64, the 2016 state measure in which voters approved legal recreational marijuana sales to adults. People in many municipalities have enthused on how taxing pot could fill government coffers.

“While other jurisdictions seek to capitalize on a perceived economic bonanza that Prop. 64 supposedly portends, L.A. County must remain committed to thoughtful, reasonable approaches to this issue, and we will do that,” Ridley-Thomas said.

A key matter, he noted, is the potency of the marijuana available today. He pointed to studies that find an increase in cannabis-related psychosis in young people. That was addressed in an October story in Scientific American titled “Link Between Adolescent Pot Smoking and Psychosis Strengthens.” It built off a German study of 1,200 people with schizophrenia. 

“That which is on the street today is not your grandmother’s Mary Jane,” Ridley-Thomas told the Downtown Los Angeles crowd.

Ridley-Thomas said much of the burden of dealing with marijuana-related issues would fall on L.A. County, rather than individual cities, as the County is responsible for healthcare. He expressed concern about a financial impact that is generating little discussion.

He said the Office of Cannabis Management will continue to grapple with matters related to public safety and equitable enforcement, as well as potential risks. He recognized that his concerns may be out of the mainstream.

“Others take a different point of view. They are entitled to it, but from this particular posture I will not retreat,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is going to be a lot for us to contend with.”

regardie@downtownnews.com

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